Courtesy of Spencer Phillips
Spencer Phillips plans to cycle across the United States this summer to raise money for young adults suffering from cancer.
The wind zips past Spencer Phillips’ ears as he makes his ascent along U.S. Highway 1 near his home in Santa Cruz. A blur of rhythm and rolling keeps him in a blissful trance as he cycles along the panoramic bay.
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“You’re able to see the road in the world at a different viewpoint,” he said.
The Los Altos native plans to see a lot more of the world this summer when he embarks on the Ulman Foundation’s 4K for Cancer, an event in which college-aged students can run or cycle across the U.S. to raise money for young adults affected by cancer.
Phillips, who ran a marathon three years ago to support cancer research, found out about the annual fundraiser while scrolling through Instagram.
“I thought, well, it is two of my favorite things (fundraising and cycling) and I can combine them, and I can give back while completing an adventure for 70 days over 4,500 miles with all the excursions,” the 24-year-old said. “It’ll be something I can do and make my summer worthwhile, and give back to the community in a way I know how.”
Born at Stanford Hospital, Phillips graduated from St. Simon Parish School in 2009 and St. Francis High in 2013. Now attending Mission College and working toward a degree in fire technology management, Phillips has two jobs – one as an instructor at SoulCycle.
He also finds time to work out at the gym three or four hours per week and cycle 100-200 miles weekly.
Phillips attributes his work ethic to his father, who has inspired him to never give up.
“He seems to always be the first one up, and day after day just gets stuff done,” Phillips said of his dad, “and he is always willing to go to the next limit to do whatever is necessary to complete the task.”
Phillips’ grandmother was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma in 2003. Right after her diagnosis, Phillips said his dad signed up for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team In Training, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting the diseases, and ran his first marathon. With help from Phillips’ mom, they raised approximately $50,000 for the cause.
“I was 9 years old at the time, so I wasn’t able to compete in the marathon,” said Phillips, whose grandmother died in 2007. “But I’d always wanted to do one.”
In 2013, Phillips did just that. At the age of 19, he entered his first marathon, running in the California International Marathon in Sacramento. Later in 2016, he ran the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon with Team In Training and raised approximately $5,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Running took a toll on Phillips, however, and he shattered his foot last year. Already a cyclist, the injury pushed him more toward the sport.
He decided last fall to participate in 4K for Cancer and has been raising money for the cause ever since. Phillips is slated to start his journey June 2 in Baltimore. He will be cycling with other college-aged students through the Appalachian Mountains, Bryce Canyon National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park and the Lake Tahoe area, with the goal of finishing at the Golden Gate Bridge Aug. 10.
During rest days, Phillips said he and other riders plan to visit hospitals and colleges, offering Ulman Foundation scholarships to help young adults affected by cancer continue their education.
“I think that’s kind of lost in translation – like kids can get cancer, too,” he said. “And being a young adult myself, it’s kind of scary. I wouldn’t know what to do.”
Phillips has set up a fundraising page and hopes to raise more than $10,000.
“I feel like the person I am today is someone who can motivate others to do their part, whether it is fundraising for any sort of local blood drive or any sort of way that they can give back to their community on a small scale to going above and beyond,” he said.
Phillips hopes his efforts inspire others in the community.
“No matter how old you are, no matter what race or ethnicities, cancer affects everyone and affects everyone around you,” he said. “And that it is very hard financially, emotionally and physically on the person. (It is important) to be there for the people who are affected by it and just to create awareness because … we can beat this thing. We can find a cure. If we have the world in our fingertips with our phones, we can find a way to beat this disease.”
To donate to Phillips’ fund-raiser and for more information, visit ulman.z2systems.com/spencer-phillips.